Friday, December 30, 2016

Aiden's Footprint

When you haven’t had your own children and now your friend’s kids are graduating from college and getting married and their proud photos boast on face book they’re grandparents for the third time, a sense of separation and loss continues to laugh in my face. Not because they’re doing anything wrong, but because now and then I’m reminded that my activities and conversations remain different and that is simply our childless reality.

The other funny thing that happens is it appears our friends with kids have lived a lifetime while ours has stood still. Sometimes I wonder what our life would’ve been like had children entered on the scene. Would my husband and I have been able to break the bad parts of our family habits while embracing the good? Would we’ve learned how to have a pillow fight or take our kids hiking? Would we have enjoyed family game nights? Played tricks on each other? Created traditions like taco night? Would we’ve been rigid parents? Or would we have seen the world through our children’s childlike wonder?

Infertility closed that window around fifteen years ago so it’s hard to know what we would’ve been like, but that’s okay now because our routine revolves around other things.

Two years ago, December 2014, my husband Curtis and I spent Christmas in North Carolina with my family who had moved there in the fall of 2013. We set up home base at Mom’s house. Mom, who had lived 3,000 miles away in California for 30 years, now lives in North Carolina, much closer to Connecticut. On the other hand, my sister Cyndi Jo and her husband Bill, who were in Connecticut, moved to North Carolina to be near his family including their daughter and three tow-headed grandbabies, Dominic 13, Michael 12 and Aiden who was 7, who now live with them.

Christmas day at my sisters, we listened to Aiden talk to Santa in the North Pole, watched the kids open presents and play games before Curtis regaled the family with songs while Aiden found his rhythm drumming Uncle Curtis’ guitar case.

When the festivities were over we had a few extra days to visit as we drove the 50 minutes back and forth between mom and my sister’s home. Because of the distance we spent a night at Cyndi & Bill’s. They have a house full of people which meant we’d have to sleep in the middle of their living room.

My words said, “Of course, we’ll sleep over,” but my heart was troubled that the thought of sleeping in the middle of someone’s common area didn’t make me leap for joy. There are reasons why that may not always work, but for the sake of this story, this isn’t one of them.

My heart is innocent and seeks fun, joy and laughter but it just takes extra effort to express it or so it seems. And when you don’t have your own children to show you playful delight, it takes even longer. This sense of hesitation didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow dissolve of childlike fun and curiosity that turned into a practical way of being safe in hopes I wouldn’t get hit or cause trouble. If unchecked, I think it morphs into something else as we get older.

I may not always be able to change my initial reaction to certain things but if I recognize the battle, what I can change is my follow through. In spite of my inner struggle, I seized the opportunity before me, switched gears and said to myself, self, this is silly; who cares if you’re sleeping in your families living room. Remember, sleeping over wasn’t in question. It was the inner battle that was bent on stealing my joy. But I refused to let it win as I tried to preserve the chance for joy.

Cyndi Jo and Bill have a huge leather couch that wraps around the room with wide built in recliners. We could’ve slept in those and been perfectly comfortable; instead my sister blew up a double air mattress for such an occasion.

As we settled for the evening with a view of the stockings and their lit Christmas tree, Michael 12 and Aiden who was 7, came out with blankets they dragged from their beds and settled on each end of the couch as if they’d done this before. Dominic, 13, got the bedroom to himself. I asked, "Are they allowed to do this?" My sister said, “The younger boys sleep out here often. It’s what they like to do.”

My old thinking started to seep back in as my comfort zone was being invaded, but that lasted only a few seconds when I realized I was getting an opportunity to experience my sister and Bill’s life that was allowing the innocence of children to be children, unlike what any of us had growing up. I lay on the air mattress and turned my head back and forth as I watched each settle in. Peace fell over me as I realized we were having a sleep over with these young boys whom we love and who were comfortable to sleep near us, their aunt and uncle. Michael was out like a light and Aiden, the youngest one, sort of closed his eyes and played shy as he pulled the blanket over his face before he fell asleep.

Come morning I woke up refreshed and lay listening to the quiet house. I turned toward Aiden and was struck by a vision that has never left me. Trying to capture an emotion with words is difficult because that moment in time is personal but something so sweet and innocent stirred when all I could see was the bottom of one of Aiden’s little bare feet sticking out from under his blanket.

His little foot reflected innocence, joy, trust, simple, untroubled, carefree, safety, cute, fun, pure, unsuspicious and content. The bottom of Aiden’s little foot reflected a little boy who could drag his blanket through the house and sleep on the couch without a care in the world because he knew it was safe.

My heart was warmed as God gave me a glimpse of childlike joy and trust that I couldn’t have gotten any other way unless I slept in the middle of my families’ living room.

My whole family has been coming through our past and getting a chance for new beginnings in spite of our childhood obstacles.

Sometimes it’s the simple unexpected visions that leave the sweetest footprint in our hearts.

Have you allowed God a foothold on your heart? If so, what did that look like for you?


Lucinda Secrest McDowell said...

I love this story! Thank you for continuing to open your heart, Tammy Sue. Happy New Year!

Linda Loegel said...

Beautiful! I love your next to the last line. You certainly see the world in your special Tammy Sue way and we're all the better for it.

Tammy Sue Willey said...

That means a lot to me Linda, aka mom!

Tammy Sue Willey said...

Thanks cindy! Your encouraging words along the way have meant a lot to me! Happy New Year to you!

Carol Hare said...

Tammy Sue, your gift for finding so much joy in little things is so endearing. Thank you. I'm looking forward to your book.